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Radithor was a patent medicine that is a well-known example of radioactive quackery. It consisted of triple distilled water containing at a minimum 1 microcurie (37 kBq) each of the radium 226 and 228 isotopes.


Radithor was manufactured from 1918 to 1928 by the Bailey Radium Laboratories, Inc., of East Orange, New Jersey. The owner of the company and head of the laboratories was listed as Dr. William J. A. Bailey, a dropout from Harvard College,[1] who was not a medical doctor.[2] It was advertised as "A Cure for the Living Dead"[3] as well as "Perpetual Sunshine".

Eben Byers, a wealthy American socialite, athlete, industrialist and Yale College graduate, died from Radithor radiation poisoning in 1932.[4]

The Wall Street Journal article describing the Byers incident was called "The Radium Water Worked Fine Until His Jaw Came Off".[5] Byers's death led to the strengthening of the Food and Drug Administration's powers and the demise of most radiation-based patent medicines.


  1. ^ "Medicine: Radium Drinks". Time. Apr 11, 1932. Retrieved 11 July 2010. 
  2. ^ Literary Digest, 16 April 1932
  3. ^ Radium Cures - museumofquackery.com
  4. ^ "Death Stirs Action on Radium 'Cures'. Trade Commission Speeds Its Inquiry. Health Department Checks Drug Wholesalers. Autopsy Shows Symptoms. Maker of "Radithor" Denies It Killed Byers, as Does Victim's Physician in Pittsburgh. Walker Uses Apparatus. Friends Alarmed to Find Mayor Has Been Drinking Radium-Charged Water for Last Six Months.". New York Times. April 2, 1932. Retrieved 2011-10-01. Federal and local agencies, as well as medical authorities in various parts of the country, were stirred to action yesterday as a result of the death of Eben M. Byers, wealthy Pittsburgh steel manufacturer and sportsman, who died here Wednesday at the Doctors' Hospital from causes attributed to radium poisoning resulting from the drinking of water containing radium in solution. ... 
  5. ^ http://www.case.edu/affil/MeMA/MCA/11-20/1991-Nov.pdf
  • Radithor (ca. 1918). 15 Sep. 2004. Oak Ridge Associated Universities. 12 Apr. 2005 [1].

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radithor — Please support Wikipedia.
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Fri, 13 Jun 2014 02:28:14 -0700

Radium was soon all the rage- bottled radium water was used as a health tonic, such as the popular Radithor brand "Certified Radioactive Water"; facial creams that included the element were used to "rejuvenate the skin"; the Radium Institute in New ...
The Atlantic
Thu, 07 Mar 2013 10:06:04 -0800

One particular item called Radithor -- a portmanteau of radium and mesothorium, an isotope of radium, was discontinued in 1928. Called, "Liquid Sunshine," its most famous consumer died 4 years later after losing most of his jaw, similar to the ...

ABC News

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Thu, 07 Nov 2013 12:33:25 -0800

This week, former Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat's death was in the news in a case of suspected radiation poisoning. Swiss scientists announced they had found 18 times the normal levels of polonium in Yasser Arafat's rib, pelvis and in soil stained ...
South Bend Tribune
Thu, 07 Nov 2013 03:18:29 -0800

Marie Curie and Pierre Curie discovered radium in 1898, and it soon became used as a treatment for cancer and was promoted for its beneficial health qualities, including its use in a tonic, Radithor. Initially, its use to illuminate watch dials was ...
Thu, 19 Sep 2013 05:37:35 -0700

Il Radithor era una mistura letale: flaconi di acqua distillata con l'aggiunta di un microcurie di radio 226 e 228. Il suo “inventore”, William J. A. Bailey, si spacciava per dottore in medicina nonostante fosse uscito da Harvard senza laurearsi e i ...
Fri, 14 Dec 2012 01:00:00 -0800

He did a thriving business, especially with his liquid Radithor, whose saddest and most noteworthy victim was wealthy Pittsburgh manufacturer and playboy Eben Byers. Byers's physician recommended he try Radithor for his injured arm, and Byers began ...

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